All other things being equal, your intellectual property may be the one thing that gives you an advantage of competitors. As such, what are you doing to ensure IP is an important part of your business strategy?
Intellectual property is present in every business. IP includes patents (representing innovation) and trade secrets (representing valuable confidential information), plus trademarks (representing your brand in the marketplace) and copyright (representing the creative expression of your brand).
IP comprises your company’s capacity to get things done, from the internal know-how of staff to the external products and services you offer in the marketplace. Successful companies are often those best able to leverage their IP to achieve short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
IP as a Business Strategy
When a company embraces an IP-driven market strategy, they do so to ensure their company remains at the forefront of innovation. Why is that important? In a recent GE study of 1,000 senior business executives from 12 countries, 95% of respondents rated innovation as the top factor driving competition.
Thus, innovation and intellectual property go hand-in-hand. Innovation is makes it possible for companies to continuously develop new ideas for products and services, which promotes greater employee job satisfaction, and encourages teamwork. Ultimately, this is what allows organizations to develop competitive advantages in the marketplace through the introduction of new IP.
Implementing an IP Strategy
One of the first steps for implementing an IP strategy is to conduct an IP INVENTORY of your company’s existing assets:
- Existing patents
- Pending applications
- Technology suitable for patent protection
- Duration/life of the IP
- Existing trademarks, service marks, or tradenames
- Existing registrations
- Pending applications
- Existing content and creative expression
- Art, photos, text, music, video, software code, etc.
- Existing/pending registrations
- Duration/life of the IP
- Existing confidential information that’s of value
- Historic and current measures to maintain secrecy
Next up is IDENTIFYING BARRIERS. What IP rights do other parties have that pose a challenge to bringing your product to market?
- Existing or related patents
- Similar trademarks or brands
- Protected content.
Once that’s done, you’ll want to assess what MIX OF IP is necessary for success? What are the right ingredients for your company?
- Some IP arises automatically from the day-to-day of doing business, such as copyrights and trademarks
- Some IP requires conscious designation by your company, such as trade secrets and maintaining confidentiality.
- Some IP requires government license, such as patents.
LONGEVITY OF THE IP also plays a key role because different forms of IP enjoy different lifespans. What is the life of your IP? For example, is it 20 Years (for patents) or life of the author plus 70 years (for copyrights)?
Perhaps most importantly, as you embark on an IP strategy, how will your company ACQUIRE AND MAINTAIN YOUR IP?
- Through innovation: your plan is to develop technology, methods, and content internally
- By license: you plan to partner with others for new or supplemental technology, methods, and content and license out what you have, license in what you need, and give away rights for long-term strategic reasons.
- Via litigation: you will be aggressive protecting your IP by using litigation to keep competitors and infringement in check.
Nature of Your IP Strategy
There are generally two approaches to implementing an IP strategy. You can be inclusive by involving others and fostering open innovation, or you can be exclusive and highly protective, which tends to cripple innovation. Given how senior business executives view innovation (see above), it’s plain to see that inclusive strategies tend to fall into the category of best practices.
To foster a collaborative environment when it comes to IP, these days many companies focus on the concept of open intellectual property , which presumes that when companies cooperate with technology transfer and the sharing and exchange of knowledge—all in pursuit of developing something new and patentable—everyone wins. It’s a complete 180 from traditional IP development where companies developed their products and technologies in secret.
Which is right for you, an open approach rather than restrictive? Total exclusion? Limited exclusion? Partial transfer of rights? Open and free access? What forms of IP might be available from third parties or in the public domain?
Seek Expert Advice
Before settling on an IP strategy for your company, know that IP Strategies tend to be high-risk, high-reward. As such, you must “come to the party” well-prepared, willing to spend time and money, and remain flexible.
“Intellectual property rights and laws are complex and everchanging, especially with the global nature of today’s marketplace,” explains Eric Ludwig, whose California-based law firm, Ludwig APC, specializes in IP, privacy matters, and business litigation around the globe. “We recommend companies that are considering IP strategies to differentiate themselves in the marketplace work with experts like us to explore the various options and approaches that might be right for their business goals.”
Protect Your Product. Your Business. Your Privacy. Your Dreams. Contact Eric Ludwig today for a free, one-hour consultation to discuss how to develop an intellectual property strategy for your business.
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